Monday, October 24, 2005

Born to Be Mild
It was exactly two years, two months and 24 days ago that I first glimpsed the Hong Kong Harley Owners Group. Julian and I were in a shuttle van on our way from our Shenzhen teaching gig to the Hong Kong airport to return to the States when I heard rolling thunder.
I craned my neck out the window to see an orderly procession of Asian men straddling full dress sparkling hogs and wearing clean, bright blue denim vests adorned with equally spiffy Hong Kong Harley Owners Group patches.
They were all wearing shiny, smallish safety helmets and equally clean jeans and leathers; The Far East chapter of Hell's Angels these guys obviously weren't but I was intrigued and filed the memory away.
Flash forward to this afternoon. I'm in the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club gnawing on the driest, longest awaited (40-minutes from order to table) club sandwich in human memory and taking notes as my host and the president of the Hong Kong Harley Owners Club (HOG), Dr Raymond Ma -- a dentist by trade -- is filling me in on the group's history and plans for a November rally on the mainland.
I'd met him at his office and he'd driven me to the club in a Smart car made by Mercedes Benz. Apparently popular in Europe, it's the size of a very, very small bathroom if you don't stand up, which you couldn't if you tried, of course. Dr Ray kept emphasizing that it was made by Mercedes. I kept wondering why he didn't take us there on one of his three Harleys. His Suzuki GSXR600 and his Westberg Italian scooter were out of the question, obviously, as they didn't befit the story's theme.
Nonetheless there was a white Harley Soft Tail parked at the yacht club that Dr Ray casually mentioned belonged to another HOG member who also owns the yacht formerly helmed by Hong Kong's last British governor.
The club was sprinkled with mostly elderly expat mummies who looked like they were still waiting for the sun to set on the Empire while stoned on gin and Valium.
Dr Ray, a courteous and genial soul, told me about the club's history and about the numerous problems and financial shakedowns involved in organizing a rally ride to mainland China. He also gave me an overview of the membership -- a combination of Hong Kong Chinese, European and American expats -- which is, as one might surmise, is wealthy though the dues are reasonable and have been dropped recently in order attract more potential Harleyites.
He's never been to the legendary Sturgis rally and I almost fear the worst for him if he and other HK HOGgers go as they hope next year.
``I imagine it will be like what I did when I went to the Boy Scout World Jamboree. I think Sturgis is almost the same with everybody coming for one purpose for one week from all over the world.''
I'll be meeting more HOG members later for this story, but what really intrigued me was his polite description of seven ex-members who had had dropped out to form their own group.
``They were in the old group, gweilos (foreigners) who were what you might expect. Wild, with beards, long hair, noisy. They behaved like a hard-core Harely rider. That's the best compliment I can say. But they didn't like to ride in a convoy and we always ride in a convoy. To them we are too gentle.''
They have since formed their own group, he said. ``They changed their name to Mad Dog,'' he said.
Back at the office I googled around and found indeed there is a Mad Dog MC club chapter in Hong Kong. Formed orginally in the Philippines, the HK group is the newest and their website is a lot more interesting than the HOG site -- babe'o'licious as the cliche goes. Plus, they meet at a comfortable bar I've been to before and had some fun at. I see this story taking a turn....
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